ObamaCare

ObamaCare, Contraception, and the War on Women

What is the war on women? The phrase has been used by various political groups to characterize attitudes related to the perspective on women’s roles in the home and workplace. In recent days, the idea of a war on women has been used to describe the debate over whether or not the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., ObamaCare) should provide all forms of FDA-approved contraceptives to women at no cost to them. The typical accusations of a war against women have been lobbed against conservatives who seek to limit the government’s role in providing contraceptives.

Now it seems that a new front of the war on women has been opened, but this time it comes from a very unlikely place–progressives attempting to justify the contraceptive mandate of ObamaCare.

A number of articles have appeared in recent days highlighting a series of ads produced by the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and ProgressNow Colorado. These ads seek to explain why young adults, particularly young women, should sign up for insurance on the new health exchanges.

Even though there are a few different versions, the theme of these advertisements directed at women is that you need free contraceptives in order to participate in promiscuous sexual activity without regret. Without these free contraceptives, you may not be able to “enjoy” the liberation of your sexuality.

In an interview with The Denver Post, Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, attempted to justify the ads promoting promiscuous behavior. She stated, “People get upset when you portray women as independent. We think this ad is really about healthy relationships and that people are taking control of their lives with health care.”

The problem with these ads is twofold. First, they objectify women by speaking of them in exclusively sexual terms. In one of the ads, a cut-out of Ryan Gosling is portrayed as being “excited about getting to know” the real-life girl pictured in the ad. His excitement stems from the fact that she has easy access to birth control.

This perspective on women is demeaning and unbiblical. Yes, God created man and woman with a sexual nature (He told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply in Genesis 1:28). However, we are all much more than our sexuality. We are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) and have value as persons in that image, not simply because we have a sexual nature.

Second, these ads promote risky sexual behavior with a false sense of security. Simply limiting the possibility of pregnancy does not make sexual activity outside of marriage safe, much less commendable. The hook-up culture of college campuses leads to a host of problems including sexually transmitted infections, pornography, emotional attachment, and potential violence. Contraceptives do not address these issues. Giving a false sense of security through free birth control pills only exacerbates the problem.

This is why God’s design for sexuality is that it should only be expressed within the context of marriage. In Hebrews 13:4 we read, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Many people may look this verse and say that the Bible is stuck in the Dark Ages. However, the reality is that God’s design for sex exclusively within marriage is the safest and most fulfilling option.

Is there a war on women? There certainly seems to be, but it is not what you may have been led to believe. The war on women is being waged by groups like ProgressNow Colorado who view women as nothing but objects of sexual desire. Instead, we need to proclaim that women find their true value in the fact that they are made in the image of God.

*I apologize for posting the content of the ads in the pictures on this blog post, but I felt it was necessary to see that they are actually real. The rest of the ads can be found at http://www.doyougotinsurance.com.

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Kurtis Lee, “Pro-Obamacare ads targeting millennials stir controversy in Colorado,” The Denver Post, November 12, 2013.

Emily Miller, “MILLER: New Obamacare ads make young women look like sluts,” The Washington Times, November 12, 2013.

Government, Religious Liberty, and Women’s Health

There is an excellent article posted today on Public Discourse by Helen Alvare addressing the issues of government, religious liberty, and women’s health. Here are some of the highlights.

On the issue of the administration’s campaign targeting women:

The result is an administration—led by men, but fronted by women—blatantly in favor of the view that to be “for women” (and to be super cool), you should support casual sex and the free contraception that facilitates it. The Obama campaign’s real message about the HHS mandate translates as follows: If you object to coercing religious institutions into sponsoring free contraception, you are no friend to women.

On the threat to religious liberty:

Any American citizen or institution that visibly opposes this powerful alliance might realistically worry about its future. This is new for Christians in America. In decades past, only the most extremist abortion interest groups—e.g., Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League—visibly denounced the beliefs and practices of Christian churches regarding human sexuality, marriage, and family. But today, these groups command the prime-time podium at the Democratic National Convention, and count the president of the United States as their closest political ally.

On the challenge for Christians:

Instead, for the good of women and the good of society, Christians must engage in a hard conversation: what does women’s freedom truly include? Christian citizens, Catholics in particular, must explain why their witness on contraception contributes to, and doesn’t derogate, women’s long-term flourishing. These conversations must certainly deal with the world as it is—culturally, politically—but can never forget to speak of the world as it ought to be, the world parents hope to leave to their daughters and sons.

Christian churches need to be frank about what they are proposing concerning sex, parenting, and marriage. They shouldn’t hide the ball; that rightly infuriates people. And they should especially remember those people who often slip through the cracks, who are forgotten or ignored by the alliance of Planned Parenthood and the federal government: our poorest and least educated fellow citizens who suffer the most from the loss of a healthy marriage culture.

I’d like to encourage you to read the entire article. It appears that it will also include two more follow-up pieces in the days to come. You can find the article here.

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Helen Alvare, “Planned Parenthood and the Government v. Religious Liberty and Women’s Wellbeing,” Public Discourse, December 4, 2012.

The Inconsistent Logic of Abortion Rights Advocates

During last week’s debate between Vice President Joe Biden and GOP Vice President nominee Paul Ryan, the moderator asked a very interesting question. Basing her question on the fact that both Biden and Ryan are Catholic, Martha Raddatz asked the candidates to explain how their faith impacts their politics, especially related to the issue of abortion. The answers were perhaps surprisingly similar in their foundation but vastly different in their application.

Congressman Ryan stated that he believed life begins at conception, which is in keeping with Catholic doctrine. He declared that he cannot separate his faith from his politics on the issue of abortion. Therefore, Ryan concluded that the policies of a Romney-Ryan administration would oppose abortion except in cases of rape and incest. It should be noted, however, that Ryan had stated previously his personal beliefs even oppose abortion in cases of rape and incest.

Vice President Biden offered a very similar response regarding the beginning of life. He acknowledged agreement that life begins at conception as a de fide doctrine of the Catholic Church. However, he went on to declare that he cannot force his morality on someone else and that a woman has the right to do as she wishes with her own body.

I doubt many people were shocked by the answers that Biden and Ryan offered. Some may have been surprised that Vice President Biden believes life begins at conception, and others may have been intrigued that Ryan did not espouse his personal views on abortion in cases of rape and incest. However, the general tenor of the answers held to firmly established party platforms for each candidate.

In the midst of this debate, I find it interesting that little evaluation has been offered of the inconsistency of Mr. Biden’s argument. There are two key elements of his answer that contradict many of his other political goals—absolute autonomy and the refusal to impose his own morality.

The argument for autonomy is common in the abortion debate. It generally takes the following form. A woman has the right to do with her body as she pleases. Her right to privacy and free choice trumps any other right. No one can tell her what she can and cannot do. Thus, a woman should have the right to have an abortion for any reason. This is the effect of the collective Supreme Court rulings of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton in 1973.

There is logical and political inconsistency in this position, however, for Mr. Biden. This argument is libertarian in nature and begs the question of complete autonomy in every aspect of life. For example, Mr. Biden (and pro-choice advocates in general) desire to see abortion on demand with no questions asked of the woman involved. She should be completely free to choose abortion for herself. Yet, there are a number of “choices” limited by government restrictions that contradict the logic of this argument. In most states, a young woman under the age of 18 cannot get a tattoo. Even if she has parental consent, states like California, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington make the tattooing of a minor a crime. In these states, parental consent cannot even trump the law to allow a minor to receive a tattoo.

By contrast, New York City is piloting a program in 13 of their public schools to make Plan B, the “morning-after pill,” available to young women without parental consent. Therefore, a fifteen-year-old girl cannot get a tattoo, but she can get an abortion-inducing drug. I ask the question, is she completely autonomous? Is the government telling her that she cannot do with her body as she chooses? Why does it apply to tattoos but not abortion?

This libertarian argument can be extended to several other areas that are restricted or outlawed by the government. You cannot buy a non-diet soda larger than 16 ounces in New York City. A host of drugs are illegal, not only to buy or sell but even to possess. Marriage laws forbid a person from marrying his/her siblings and first cousins. Government even restricts the number of people one can marry. In each of these cases, government has said that you are not free to do with your body as you wish. If Mr. Biden and other abortion rights advocates want to be consistent, they must disavow laws like these as well. However, I imagine that government officials could make a reasonable case for such laws to be on the books. Thus, their inconsistency is exposed.

The other part of Mr. Biden’s response relates to the idea that he is unwilling to impose his morality on someone else. This is egregiously inconsistent for anyone involved in government. The role of laws established by government is the imposition of morality on others. Laws that prohibit murder, theft, fraud, and slander impose someone’s morality on the rest of society. In fact all laws impose morality. For the argument of abortion rights advocates to be consistent, one has to accept moral anarchy. Everyone should be able to do what is right in his own eyes.

Abortion rights advocates claim that they do not want morality imposed on them, but they are willing accept the imposition of their own morality on others. The recent birth control mandate added to the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) imposes abortion rights morality on everyone by requiring that insurance companies supply birth control to all individuals covered at no charge to the patient. This mandate includes abortion-inducing drugs, such as Plan B and Ella. If abortion rights advocates are so opposed to the imposition of morality on others, they should oppose this mandate as well.

As seen in the examples above, the logic of abortion rights advocates in inconsistent. Without even considering the merit of their arguments, one can see that they are unable to apply their logic universally.

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Kiran Khalid and Greg Botelho, “New York program allowing teens to get Plan B pill draws critics, defenders,” CNN, September 25, 2012.

Samuel Gregg on Supreme Court Decision

Samuel Gregg, Director of Research for the Acton Institute, offered a succinct assessment of what conservatives need to do next to win the debate about healthcare in light of the recent Supreme Court decision. Here is an excerpt:

However, it’s also plain that conservatives, beyond citing the raw economics of real health-care reform, must ballast their case against socialized medicine with moral and cultural arguments. Far too many conservatives and free marketers critique socialized medicine almost solely in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. Economic analyses and arguments are important, but not many people will put everything on the line for a calculus of utility. Instead, critics must draw attention to the ways in which socialized medicine (1) saps personal responsibility, (2) facilitates the spoiled-brat entitlement mentality presently reducing much of Europe to an economic laughingstock, and (not least among such concerns) (3) creates an impossible situation for those of us who on grounds of faith and reason cannot and will not participate in schemes that legally require us to cooperate in other people’s choices for moral evil.

We can win numerous economic arguments. In some respects, that’s actually the easy part. But until we decisively shift — and win — the moral debate, the battle will be uphill all the way.

I met Samuel Gregg during my recent trip to Acton University. He is a top-notch scholar and offers clear explanations on the issues of the day. Take a few minutes and read his commentary here. You can also visit the Acton Institute online at www.acton.org for more resources.

ObamaCare and the First Amendment

During the debates surrounding the adoption of the Constitution, it became clear that the people of the United States desired further protection from tyranny by the government. As a result, Congress drafted amendments to the Constitution that ensured certain rights could not be trampled by the government. The ten amendments that were passed came to be known as the Bill of Rights. The little-known preamble to the Bill of Rights reads:

The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

With such a desire to prevent misconstruction or abuse, the states adopted these amendments. Among them was an amendment granting religious liberty to the people. This first protection granted to the people states in part:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . .

This guarantee of religious liberty has prevented the government from establishing a state-sponsored religion or church and has protected the free exercise of religion in this country. With this protection has come the application of freedom of conscience on religious grounds. This has allowed Mennonites and other pacifists to object to service in the military during times of compulsory service through the draft. It has allowed doctors and pharmacists to object to issuing drugs or services that violated their religious beliefs.

Now freedom of religion and freedom of conscience face a new challenge—the Affordable Care Act (aka, ObamaCare). Under guidelines presented by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, organizations providing health insurance coverage for their employees will have to include coverage for all FDA-approved contraception at no charge to the participants. Such contraceptives include Plan B (the morning after pill), intra-uterine devices, and sterilization.

Religious organizations of all types have historically voiced opposition to some or all of these forms of contraception. In fact, Plan B and IUD’s are more properly labeled birth control rather than contraception because they prevent birth after conception rather than preventing conception in the first place.

Catholics have presented the most consistent stance against birth control throughout these debates. Their reaction to this ruling has been firm and unyielding. On the last Sunday of January, Catholic priests around the country read letters from bishops condemning the new regulations and calling on President Obama to reverse course. In the days that followed, the Obama administration attempted to strengthen its stance with no sign of wavering.

The Obama administration has offered some veiled exceptions to this guideline, but they are less than satisfactory to many people of faith. The specific exceptions read:

Group health plans sponsored by certain religious employers, and group health insurance coverage in connection with such plans, are exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptive services. A religious employer is one that:  (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii).  45 C.F.R. §147.130(a)(1)(iv)(B).

While these exceptions may benefit churches that provide healthcare plans to their employees, large religious organizations, such as schools, charities, etc, will be forced to provide contraception. Can you imagine Baptist liberal arts colleges being forced to provide Plan B to faculty and employees at no charge through their insurance programs? Can you imagine Catholic Charities offering insurance that allows their employees unlimited access to free contraception?

Secretary Sebelius responded to criticism in a USA Today opinion piece and noted three reasons for the requirement and the minimal exceptions. Her rationale is 1) almost all women use birth control at some point in their lives, but birth control is expensive; 2) churches get an exemption; and 3) 28 states require contraception coverage, and 8 of those states offer no exemptions.

In response to the first argument, it makes little logical sense. We could use the same argumentation to say that most Americans are overweight and would like to lose weight. Therefore, all FDA-approved methods of losing weight should be made available at no charge—fitness centers, lap band, gastric bypass, etc. In fact, the government ought to ban all unhealthy food using this argumentation.

The second argument demonstrates some concern for religious liberty on behalf of the administration. Unfortunately, they drew the lines too narrowly. In a Supreme Court case earlier this year, the high court unanimously upheld religious liberty protection for religious schools even if they taught subjects other than religion. The exemptions should apply to all religious organizations—churches, schools, charities, etc.

The third argument is misleading. Just over half the states require contraception coverage. This leaves 22 states that have no requirement. Of those 28 states, 20 offer broad exemptions. Of the 8 that offer no exemptions, 5 still provide a workaround for religious organizations. That leaves only 3 of 50 states that require contraception coverage with no exemptions. Those states are Oregon, New York, and California. Thus, the new federal regulation offers fewer exemptions that 47 of the 50 states.

This is more than just a contraception issue—it is a religious liberty issue. Schools and charities have been granted an extra year to reach compliance (conveniently after the presidential election). This federal regulation needs to be changed. Broader exemptions must be granted. No constitutional scholar could, in good faith, support this regulation. In fact, most high school students in an American Government class should be able to see through the veil of these federal guideline. This administration needs to go back and read the Bill of Rights “in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers.”

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Health Resources and Services Administration, “Women’s Preventative Services: Required Health Plan Coverage Guidelines,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Kathleen Sebelius, “Kathleen Sebelius: Contraception rule respects religion,” USA Today, February 5, 2012.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “A statement by U. S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius,” January 20, 2012.